Califone

'All my friends are funeral singers', declares the title of the new album by Califone and maybe it's me, but I don't see this as something to shout about. The prospect of 60 minutes of morbid whining seems none-too enticing and a glance through a track list which includes 'A wish made while burning onions will come true' and 'Krill' doesn't leaves me any more enthusiastic.

This is the sixth album from the American-electro-folk-pop-combo; and it sounds a lot like they've been let loose at the ironmongers. There are fiddles, banjos and plenty of drawling twang to the vocals but listen carefully and you'll note the rousing clatter of metal objects being struck in the background. I tallied up steel drums, marimbas, jangly necklaces, xylophones... and surely a hint of more cowbell.

The album delivers on its title's promise with a surrealist unease filtering through each of the songs. 'Giving away the bride' and 'Evidence', throb with brooding melancholy and although there are some HooHa! moments, for the most part '...Funeral Singers' holds to a downbeat course.

Which isn't to say that the music is as deathly as I feared. Although not as involving as 2006's 'Roots and Crowns', this new album contains music of depth and subtlety. The sound is rich and increasingly layered with electronic distortions, effects, loops and mixing. This kind of intricate production however, is sometimes at odds with the homespun simplicity of much of the songwriting.

Generally diverting, occasionally moving, often unsettling; the album's lasting impression was like being stuck in a shack in some Appalachian backwater with four bearded, funereal-folk musicians and a laptop. And maybe it's me but...